NEW YORK — A Baptist evangelist and a member of the Louis Farrakhan-led Nation of Islam yelled their respective versions of "the truth" over the din of screeching trains for the attention of weary commuters streaming through one of New York City's busiest subway stations one recent evening, all while a nearby and noticeably less rowdy group of Jehovah's Witnesses quietly replenished their table with more printed copies of their sect's beliefs.
Brother Shawn, as the Baptist evangelist called himself, weaved his way through the incessant wave of bodies at the Atlantic Terminal in the borough of Brooklyn where commuters can connect to several subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road, or do some shopping and casual dining in the above-ground mall. It was Friday after 6 p.m., the end of the work week, and people were moving however fast their legs would carry them to get wherever they had to go.
There was cacophony of metal against metal, automated announcements, the buzz of conversations, and outbursts from the National of Islam Muslim making a pitch for his newspapers, while Brother Shawn yelled about "Jesus' shed blood" and who was destined for heaven and hell.
Not too many commuters among the passing throng paid them any mind, although one gaunt and sour-faced man with white hair peeking out of his blue beanie managed to say without missing a step, "F--- off," likely expressing what many of his fellow New Yorkers were thinking as they dashed to their destinations.
Listen to the scene in the audio clip below (expletive included):
Brother Shawn retired to his corner briefly, a table manned by another gentleman and decorated with placards printed with Bible verses and various tracts. He told The Christian Post that he is a member of Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Brooklyn, "down near Coney Island." Brother Shawn also mentioned that he has been spreading the good news in New York City's subways for 7 years, and that he is a bit of a media darling.
In the audio clip below, Brother Shawn explains his evangelism work, why people might think Christians are crazy, and why the Gospel "is about love, not hate."
The Muslim gentleman selling copies of "The Final Call" refused to stand still and give up any of his time to talk, although he did mention that "God, He also loves spontaneous charity." This reporter considered, for a split second, to practice what God supposedly loves but then decided it would be best to hold on to that dollar, which in New York City is equivalent to a small coffee, a bagel with butter, or the surcharge for a MetroCard.
The Nation of Islam, founded in 1930, states as its goals the improvement of the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African-Americans. The religious group, led by Minister Louis Farrakhan, has been accused of promoting black supremacy and antisemitism. It has been estimated that the Nation of Islam claims anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 members.
Just a few feet away from the sparring spectacle, two men and three women were peaceably huddled and sharing a quiet moment at the corner of a table set against a wall and arrayed with copies of the Jan. 2014 issue of "The Watchtower," a monthly magazine printed in over 200 languages featuring pretty illustrations that "announces Jehovah's Kingdom."
The group, its members all smiles, seemed delighted at CP's request for a brief interview, and the apparent leader of the group, Brian Alexander, stepped forward.
Mr. Alexander refused to say anything "disparaging" about Brother Shawn and his Muslim neighbor positioned just a few feet away, separated by a set of stairs leading up to the Atlantic Terminal Mall. Instead, he said that he thought it was "nice that they're taking time to share their views and their feelings on things when it comes to the Bible or to God."
Asked who, among the three groups offering New Yorkers' their version of "the truth," had it right, Alexander explained, "We always like to respond back to the words of Jesus in John 17:17 where he said that 'your word is truth.' From a human standpoint, we will never say that we have the right religion or that someone else has it, but we will go to the Bible, share what the Bible has to say and we'll leave it up to the individual to determine who has the truth."
Hear more of what Alexander had to say...about his methods for saving souls and his thoughts on who's right about God — himself, the Baptist evangelist, or the Nation of Islam.
Jehovah's Witnesses is a Christian denomination with non-trinitarian beliefs that differs from mainstream Protestantism. The sect, viewed as a cult by some Christians, uses its own translation of the Bible, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures and believes, in contradiction to mainstream Christianity, that Jesus was created by God as opposed to being God. The organization explains on its website that adherents do not worship Jesus, "as we do not believe that he is Almighty God."